The cost-of-living crisis is certainly affecting most in this country, although probably not if you’re in government! I don’t imagine there are many of our leaders struggling to heat their houses or their food bills causing them too much concern. No, I’m not being politically biased, but living where we do, in the beautiful Gloucestershire countryside, we probably see the complete spectrum of poverty and wealth, ranging from land owners, businesses and foreign oligarchs to retired farm and estate workers and those simply on low pay.
Like most families, our weekly outgoings have risen dramatically. I have moved my laptop into the sitting room to save heating my office with an electric fan heater. Once I’ve finished helping outdoors on the farm, if it’s cold I light the open fire, which means we have one room warm most of the time. As farmers we’re well off for wood, so many of our lovely elm trees having been cut down due to disease in the past few years. Not quite carbon neutral, I agree, but needs must.
I wonder if we’ll all become a bit more aware of waste. Wasted energy, wasted food. I like to feel I don’t waste much, but realise I’m now far more conscious of turning lights off when I leave a room. I even bought a halogen cooker, one I found advertised cheaply in the local ads, once I realised the cost of heating the oven to bake a couple of jacket potatoes.
But food has been cheap for so long that many appear to live on ready meals and constantly waste food that hasn’t been eaten on the day it was bought or by its stated ‘best before’ date. Potatoes are sound staples, but don’t believe stores that tell you they’ve gone out of date. I can remember my mother-in-law picking potatoes from the field in September that lasted the family the whole year. Washed potatoes will have a shorter life, but far longer than we’re led to believe.
I’m sure most who read this are more than capable of making a meal out of leftovers and store cupboard staples, but sadly the younger generation seem to have lost that skill. Both my son and daughter’s families place a weekly shop, which is enhanced almost daily as they still don’t appear to have anything they want to eat. They run out of milk and eggs, cheese and butter, all of which costs far more at the local convenience store. They seem amazed that I only shop in town every two to three weeks, although I do visit our village stores most weeks on the day they have fresh fruit and vegetables in. In fairness, this isn’t just for the produce, although even I’m aware my fresh fruit and veg won’t last three weeks, but having the luxury of a village store and post office in our rural location means we need to support them regularly.
I stock the freezer with bread and milk, both of which are far cheaper from the supermarket, and frozen vegetables, so useful when the fridge is empty. I hate shopping, but welcome the Click and Collect offers, especially when I can pick a time when the charge is minimal. On the way to our local supermarket I pass a small agricultural store where I buy three dozen eggs at £2.50 a dozen. Eggs have a shelf life of five weeks. Interestingly our local farm shop buy from the same producer, then sell on to the village shop, where they are priced at £3.30 a dozen. While I don’t begrudge anyone their profit margin, I think we need to shop around a bit.
I have a farmer’s in-built dislike of supermarkets, as most treat their producer’s so badly, but I cannot help but admire their marketing skills. We live equidistant from Gloucester and Cirencester, but I usually drive towards Gloucester to shop. Why? Because the same products on the supermarket shelves vary considerably in price based on the social level of the area, as does the fuel in the garage. Those on the outskirts of the city are less expensive than Cirencester or Tetbury, for exactly the same items.
Maybe recycling day tells the tale of those least affected by the state of the economy. Mine is mainly tins and coffee jars, cardboard from larder staples and the occasional wine bottle. Others have boxes from endless pizzas and ready cooked meals, while the most economic leave very little, managing from their own fresh garden produce. Then there are those who suffer not, with bins full of pink Champagne bottles on a regular basis. But we are in Gloucestershire after all!
You can read more from Sue Andrews, The Cotswold Shepherdess, here.
Check out Sue’s heartwarming books about sheep farming here